I always say this, but once again… I’m really excited for this week’s Stripe Talk! I met Ali Galgano a couple years ago and was immediately obsessed with her… mostly because everything she was wearing was pink. I’ve never met anyone with such cool, distinctive personal style… and besides all that, she is one of the nicest people I know. I love this interview because of her honest tips. (Frownies? Tunics? YES!) Read on for a fun interview… and, very excitingly – if you use code THESTRIPE25, you can take 25% off sitewide at Charm & Chain through Sunday night!
Grace: Tell me a little bit about your professional background. What made you decide to start Charm & Chain?
Ali: After I graduated from college, I worked in the corporate world for a few years. I had a great job but lacked a creative outlet, so I enrolled in a wirework and metal soldering class at the 92nd St Y for fun. It fueled my fascination with jewelry and I spent the next few months thirsty for ways I could learn more about the industry. I left my job and enrolled full-time at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), where I studied jewelry design and received my graduate degree in gemology. The principles I learned at the GIA led me to look at the assortment of jewelry in New York in a new way. The city offers an incredibly diverse selection of designers across its specialty boutiques, vintage stores, and street vendors. While their pieces were prevalent in the city, there was remarkably little of it online. I created Charm & Chain to support designers by introducing them to a broader audience while also providing our customers with access to a highly curated selection of the best jewelry out there.
Grace: What is your favorite part of owning your own jewelry boutique?
Ali: My office is like one giant jewelry box. Playing dress up with the jewelry here never gets old!
Grace: Describe your typical day.
Ali: I fight a daily battle with my alarm clock, wake up begrudgingly, and force myself to go to a workout class—usually Barry’s Bootcamp, Physique57 or Bar Method. Although I actually hate exercising, it keeps me sane. I get to the office around 10AM. On my walk to work, I read new emails and catch up on the fashion accounts I follow on Instagram. As soon as I get in, I scan Women’s Wear Daily, Business of Fashion, and Fashionista.com to get up to speed on what’s happening in the industry.
An average day will see me meeting with at least one person from my team, discussing jewelry orders, discussing business and marketing strategy, or reviewing the next month’s editorial calendar. I try to allocate one day a week where I either go on buying appointments or meet with designers in our offices. This is my favorite part of my job, by far. I love hearing people’s experiences with designing jewelry and learning what inspires them.
A few nights a week I’ll attend social or work dinners, which is always a great reason to try new restaurants (something I love to do!). My husband and I follow the NYC restaurant world pretty closely and love living here because of its amazing chefs and restaurants.
I also cook a lot when I don’t have dinners to attend. Unfortunately, my kitchen is frustratingly small so it’s an ongoing challenge, especially when my husband breaks out his Searzall cooking blowtorch. I usually end the night with some great TV and get ready to start it all over again.
Grace: Tell me a little bit about your vision for the site. How do you decide to work with a new designer?
Ali: Charm & Chain’s mission is to curate the best selection of jewelry. There are a number of factors we think about when considering new designers for the site, but it really comes down to whether the designer offers irresistibly beautiful jewelry and/or fills a void in our current offering. Like in any business, the relationships work best when we also like the people we’re working with. We’ve become great friends with many of the designers we carry and that has led to some great collaborations with designers like Lulu Frost, DANNIJO, Erickson Beamon, Lizzie Fortunato, and Alexis Bittar.
Grace: And what are your best-selling pieces right now?
Ali: Vita Fede stackable bracelets, Bounkit gemstone statement earrings, delicate gold-plated styles by Gorjana, and layering pieces and personalized styles from Moon and Lola, Ginette_ny, Sarah Chloe & Maya Brenner.
Which are your personal favorite pieces?
With so many amazing pieces constantly coming into the office, my favorite pieces are always changing. Right now I’m loving Doloris Petunia’s pink-to-orange ombré Malibu Necklace, our new Alexis Bittar pavé crystal panther bracelet and DANNIJO’s red Swarovski crystal Carrie Earrings. The Lulu Frost Code rings, however, are forever favorites. I have them in three different numbers that are symbolic to me.
Grace: You have the most amazing personal style. What inspires you when you’re getting dressed in the morning?
Ali: Thank you! That means so much to me coming from such a style maven!
One of my favorite quotes is “Fashion says ‘Me too!’ and style says ‘Only me.’” I really dress to both express myself and feel happy. I am the opposite of a minimalist—I love color, prints, avant-garde shapes, and anything with a little flair.
I try to have an “exclamation point” in my outfit every day in the form of a bright, bold statement piece, which is not necessarily jewelry but often is. It could be a scarf, a pair of heels, a top, etc. I generally pick that first as the focal point of my outfit and then dress around it. I also have a strong inclination towards matching my accessories to my clothing – gold jewelry with a gold belt, a purple printed blouse with purple earrings, a green scarf with green shoes, etc. Doing so makes me feel put together, but I try not to go so crazy that I end up looking overly coordinated or matchy-matchy.
Grace: Let’s chat fashion… what trends for Spring are you most excited about?
Ali: I prefer to embrace trends that are also comfortable. In terms of clothing, I’m excited about tunics being back in style. I love tunics because they’re flattering and versatile–you can wear them with or without bottoms, depending on the temperature. I’m also really into wearing culottes right now, as long as the proportions are in line with the rest of my outfit. I love the tailored wide-leg silhouette paired with a high wedge and a form-fitting top. As for jewelry, I love mismatched earrings, like a delicate ear cuff paired with a stud (like these from Jennifer Zeuner) or ones that only have a slight yet impactful difference between them (like this DANNIJO set). I’m loving styles that feature marbled stones, like this cuff from Lele Sadoughi. The natural beauty of the patterns feels really fresh right now.
Grace: And who are your favorite designers?
Ali: If I had an unlimited budget I’d be wearing Mary Katrantzou, Delpozo, Miu Miu, and Missoni. More realistically, I love everything Tibi, Marisa Webb’s well-tailored separates, Australian designer Alice McCall’s whimsical feminine pieces, Alice & Olivia’s printed party dresses, DKNY’s amazing tunic sweaters, and Aritzia’s leather leggings. I shop for “fill-ins” each season at Asos, H&M and Zara mostly.
Grace: What is on your shopping list for Spring?
Ali: These splatter paint pumps. this exclamation print sweatshirt from Opening Ceremony, these amazing slip on sneakers, leather overalls, this gingham blouse by Marisa Webb, Dior earrings, and this banana print shirt dress. (from Grace: ALI I NEED THAT DRESS!)
Grace: Let’s talk about beauty… tell me about your beauty routine and the products you use.
Ali: I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to skincare. I got really badly sunburnt when I was on spring break one year in college and since then I’ve been really diligent about caring for my pale skin and developing an anti-aging routine.
Every day I wash my face with a 10% glycolic acid cream cleanser then apply Lytera, a skin brightening complex that has really improved my skin tone and gives it a nice glow. I apply Fresh eye cream, which has the same texture as La Mer but is less expensive, and Embryolisse moisturizer–a really simple, effective lotion that a makeup artist told me about. I’m very strict about sunscreen. My favorite is Elizabeth Arden SPF 50 moisturizer/sunscreen, which I use daily. At night I use Retin A cream and top it off with the same moisturizer and eye cream combo. To proactively prevent wrinkles I use facial adhesives called Frownies, which keep your face muscles from moving while you sleep. My friend’s mom has amazing skin and she attributes her lack of wrinkles to Frownies. When I tried them, I saw immediate results, but full disclosure: they’re definitely not the sexiest things to wear to sleep.
Grace, I know from reading your blog how much you champion organic, natural skincare products and I just ordered a Tata Harper starter kit to integrate into my routine thanks to you!
Grace: If you were going away for 3 months and could only take 3 beauty products, what would they be?
Ali: Sunscreen, pink lipstick, and someone from Glamsquad to blow dry my hair!
Grace: Who are your style icons?
Ali: Kelly Wearstler because of the way she pushes boundaries, both in what she wears and how she decorates her interiors. Iris Apfel for her flamboyant style that keeps getting better in her 94th year. Most importantly, my mother—she doesn’t spend a lot of time or money on clothing, but she always wears killer jewelry and taught me the importance of accessorizing at an early age.
Grace: What’s your biggest accomplishment?
Ali: Just before I was about to launch Charm & Chain in 2008, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was the most terrifying time in my life and learning how to manage the disease has been an important process for me. But not letting the illness manage me, and still successfully launching my business less than two months later was, in retrospect, an accomplishment I’m very proud of. I remain grateful for my career, but even more so for my continued good health.
A huge thank you to Ali for participating! You can read more interviews, right this way!